KZN clubs out on a showcase
MTN8 a platform for United, Arrows to prove they are elite league worthy
FOR a change, two KwaZuluNatal sides will compete in the season-opening MTN8 cup competition when Golden Arrows visit defending champions Bidvest Wits tonight and Maritzburg United trek to Pretoria for a Sunday afternoon date with Mamelodi Sundowns.
“As a club, this tournament is a platform for us to be recognised, and to show that we are not here to fight a relegation scrap every season,” said Maritzburg chairman Farook Kadodia. “Being at this level is a big difference to being in the relegation zone and finishing 10th.”
Maritzburg just this week confirmed they had negotiated a deal with the Msunduzi Municipality to receive financial support of R9 million each year for the next three years. The amount doesn’t cover their costs, said Kadodia, and therefore featuring in the MTN8 is vital to raising the value of their brand.
“The competition speaks volumes, with a winner-takesall prize (R8m), which is a great incentive. At the same time, the value of our club’s assets and the profile of the team goes higher,” added Kadodia.
The last time they appeared in this cup, Maritzburg avoided relegation on the final day of the season. Since then, two coaches have parted with the Midlands club, although in Fadlu Davids, there’s continuity after the former assistant coach was appointed full-time head coach for his first senior coaching post.
The former club captain and striker has a stable foundation to build on, although Maritzburg are still searching for a replacement for playmaker Kurt Lentjies, who left to join Chippa United. The club is set to release Zimbabwean midfielder Blessing Moyo to create space for a foreign playmaker, said Kadodia.
Visa delays means the targeted player has yet to arrive for a final assessment. However, Davids will go to Pretoria with one player who has much to prove. Ex-Sundowns defender Siyanda Xulu will enjoy running out in familiar territory, especially after two years of inactivity at Kaizer Chiefs. With regular central defender, Kenyan international, Brian Onyango, sidelined with permanent residence application matters Xulu could come into the selection frame.
Arrows, who squeaked into the competition by finishing eighth last term, enjoy better continuity than their neighbours.
Coach Clinton Larsen continues in his role with a squad that has not lost any key figures.
Instead they managed to retain Zimbabwean pair, attacking midfielder Kudakwashe Mahachi and striker Knox Mutizwa.